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J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2009 Mar;137(3):710-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2008.11.038.

Effect of work-hour restriction on operative experience in cardiothoracic surgical residency training.

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University of Utah Affiliated Hospitals, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.



Resident work-hour regulations were instituted to improve patient care during resident training. Although initial data have not shown the intended benefit of limiting resident work hours, concern has developed as to whether resident operative experience has significantly decreased since instituting the work-hour restrictions.


Resident operative logs were reviewed for 3 training institutions in the western United States for residents graduating in the years 1999-2007. Residents were divided into pre-work-hour restriction (1999-2002) and post-work-hour restriction (2003-2007) groups. Thoracic, cardiac, and all combined cases were reviewed separately for all residents at yearly intervals. Statistical analysis was subsequently conducted.


A total of 37 residents were identified from 3 different programs over the study period. Thoracic cases were lower during the first year of training but increased in the second and third years of training after work-hour restrictions (78 vs 42, 65 vs 72, and 102 vs 138; P = .17, P = .59, and P = .11, respectively). Cardiac cases were substantially lower during each year of training after work-hour restrictions (190 vs 153, 154 vs 108, and 116 vs 76; P = 0.15, P < .0001, and P = .001, respectively). Overall total cases were also lower over all years of residency after work-hour restrictions (251 vs 195, 219 vs 187, and 234 vs 214; P = .03, P = .049, and P = .59, respectively).


The overall volume of thoracic surgery cases was not significantly different after the implementation of the 80-hour work-week restriction. The total number of cardiac cases logged was substantially less during the same time period, and therefore as a result, the total number of cases performed after the implementation of the work-hour restrictions was also reduced. Although recent data have not shown an improvement in patient outcomes after restriction of resident work hours, we speculate that in a time of increasingly complex cases, reduction in resident case volumes caused by work-hour restrictions and decreasing cardiac cases might lead to inadequate operative experience.

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